Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

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Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Help, the first novel by Kathryn Stockett, irritated me, added wrinkles to my already-wrinkled brow--and heaven knows, I have enough wrinkles without getting more from a book! Why did I react this way to a #1 New York Times bestseller? Not because I'm a Southerner whose family had "help" or because of non-Southerners' reactions to the typical Southern families of the 50s and 60s. This book irritated me because it was so good I didn't want to put it down!

Sorry. When I scanned the book I chopped off Kathryn Stockett's last name.

When our electricity went out at 10:30 Wednesday morning, I abandoned all plans to clean out my pantry. After all, my pantry is dark unless the light is on. I couldn't use my computer, do laundry, either, but I could relax in my recliner and read The Help. I grinned and settled down in my chair. Three hours later the power returned. Bummer. I finished the book two days later.

Initially, I started this book because it was the scheduled book to be read by The Pearls of Wisdom book club, and since I'm a member, well, you know how that goes. Would I have read it if not for the club? Probably not. I'm a lover of mysteries, thrillers, suspense novels. Touchy-feely books usually don't appeal to me.

From the jacket flap: "In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't."

I highly recommend this book. Run, don't walk, to the nearest book store, library, or friend who owns a copy.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Author's website:
Penquin's website:

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Speaking to the Roanoke Valley Branch of the National League of American Pen Women

I love to talk about my books and writing, so I was delighted when the Roanoke Valley Branch of the National League of American Pen Women invited me to speak at their October 13th meeting held in the community room at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op on Grandin Road. I enjoyed being there.

First we lunched on sandwiches and salads provided by the Happy Belly Deli located in the Co-op. Delicious! I sat in on their business meeting, which gave me a deeper understanding of these artsy and creative women. These ladies were smart, fun, and understood me and my passion for writing. After all, they have their creative passions, too.

I had never been to the Co-op before, but was fascinated at the items I saw there and hope to go back to shop.

If you'd like to read what Dana Bailey wrote about the event, click on the Roanoke Times Back Cover blog.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hottest Book at the Lake

What do you get when you take a shiny glass paper weight, set it on a stack of paper handouts, and place a few copies of my novel Secrets at Sweetwater Cove beside it?

You get ~ drumroll here, please ~


Yep, you guessed it. My book caught fire! If not for the sensitive nose of fellow authors Carl Baker (retired Colonel in the New York State Police and the Virginia State Police, retired Deputy Secretary for Public Safety in Virginia, as well as retired Chief of Police for Chesterfield County, VA), and animal communicator Karen Wrigley, my book, possibly the entire table, would have gone up in flames!

On October 9, 2010, six authors participated in The General Store's annual Fall Festival Day. Tables were set up outside for us and all the other vendors.

Left to right: Libby Bondurant, Gailya Keller, me, Carl Baker, Karen Wrigley. Not seated at our table was Sandy Volles, pictured below.

Authors who were present and the titles of their books are: Libby Bondurant, Grazing Along the Crooked Road; Gailya Keller, The Secrets of Smiley's Woods; Sally Roseveare, Secrets at Spawning Run and Secrets at Sweetwater Cove; Carl Baker, To Defend Against All Enemies; Karen Wrigley, Beyond Woofs and Whinnies; Sandy Volles, Grandma's Two Cents.

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Friday, October 01, 2010


First Day of Land Tour: Because of months of planning with AAA's knowledgeable and patient Lynchburg travel agent Judy Martin, we looked forward to this stage of our trip. We were not disappointed!

Julie, our tour guide, and Josh, our bus driver, loaded us on a bus in Anchorage and drove us to the Alaska Railroad Station. We boarded the Wilderness Express, a sleek double-decker, glass-domed train that provided jaw-dropping views of the Alaskan wilderness.

Passengers oohed at the mountains, ahhed at the turbulent, gray rivers, snapped pictures. I learned to turn off my flash and hold the camera against the window so there wouldn't be as much reflection, although some is still visible in a few photos.

We rode slowly through Elmendorf Air Base where a plane had crashed the week before. There were no survivors. Guides asked us not to talk or take pictures out of respect for the dead. Wreckage lay alongside the track. We could smell the burned trees nearby. I thought of the families whose lives were changed because of the crash. Some of us silently prayed for them. Seems as though small planes crash often in Alaska. While we were on our trip, Senator Ted Stevens' plane crashed. He died.

Guess who was waiting for us when we passed through the little town of Wasilla! Yep, you're right. That's my hubby standing with Sarah Palin. Actually, he's standing with a life-size cardboard cutout. Note her legs.

We ate a late breakfast in the dining car. I ordered reindeer sausage (delicious) and blueberry pancakes. Imagine eating gourmet meals while watching gorgeous scenery at the same time like the two couples below did. It took me longer to eat 'cause I was so busy taking pictures.

We arrived in Talkeetna, a tiny town of 400 residents. Shops filled with local crafts and touristy stuff lined both sides of the two roads. We attended an informative presentation about Mt. McKinley (called Denali by the locals) at the ranger station, then walked in rain to the Talkeetna Lodge.

Talkeetna Lodge is in the midst of nowhere. Mountain climbers hoping to conquer Mt. McKinley stay here, as well as sight-seers, hunters, photographers, and hikers. Above is one of the many lounges. Our bedroom had two queen beds, TV, a desk, a couple of chairs, and a nice bathroom. Below is the view from our room's huge window. On a clear day, snow-capped Mt. McKinley is visible.

While in Talkeetna, we took Mahay's Jet Boat Adventures wilderness tour. Our pilot knew the rivers well, and navigated the boat out of the Talkeetna River through the inlet where the Susitna and Chulitna meet. The rivers are shallow, rocky, not what you'd traverse in a motorboat unless you knew them well. The rivers are fed by glaciers, and the constantly flowing silt changes the channels, keeps the water gray. Bald eagles fish the rivers.

The tour also included a visit to a native Indian encampment where our guide explained how the land's early inhabitants survived. Cabins like the one below were used by Indians and trappers. Caches were constructed to store food supplies and keep them safe from animals. Cabins and caches are still used in remote Alaska today.

I took the above picture from the cabin doorway, so you can tell how small it is. A cabin like this can make the difference between life and death.

Notice how the metal pieces on the top part of the support logs has been attached to keep animals from climbing inside the cache. Of course the ladder is removed before anyone storing food leaves!

In my next blog about Alaska, I'll include pictures from our scenic train ride, the town of Denali, and our adventure into Denali National Park.

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